Teams from Laguna Beach Little League’s majors and AAA divisions won the city’s first ever Tournament of Champions titles last Sunday.
In the majors division at Chapparosa Park in Laguna Niguel, Laguna VFW cruised through their side of the bracket to reach the finals, where they edged Laguna Niguel 4-3 in extra innings for the championship. At Laguna’s Riddle Field, the Crescent Bay Advisors routed the Rancho Niguel Tigers 7-0 to capture the AAA title.
A Christian Holm single, a James Loughlin triple and a passed ball with Jaden Rea at the plate put VFW up 2-0 in the second inning. They extended their lead to three when Nate Magers’s single to right scored John Phelan, who had reached on a walk and later advanced to second on a walk by Ashton Embury.
Starting pitcher Grady Morgan reached his pitch limit with two outs in the sixth and left the game with a 3-2 lead after holding Laguna Niguel to single runs in the fourth and fifth inning. Niguel went on to tie the score at three, and the game went into extra innings after Laguna Beach failed to score in the home half of the sixth.
Nolan Smith came on to pitch a scoreless seventh inning for Laguna Beach with the help of right fielder Noah Haymond’s defensive gem, which thwarted a Niguel scoring threat.
After Morgan singled with one out in the bottom of the seventh, Nate Magers hit a grounder that the Niguel second basemen fielded and threw to second, but not in time to get Morgan. Holm followed with a walk off single to shallow right field that scored Morgan to win the game.
Laguna VFW finished the season 16-5 overall.
Booker Frith pitched five innings of shutout baseball for the AAA Crescent Bay Advisors, allowing only three hits and striking out seven Rancho Niguel batters. Nolan Naess came on in the 6th and finished the shutout, striking out two of the three batters he faced. “Us coaches were most proud of the kids’ attitudes and the way they supported each other with positive encouragement,” said Coach Coby Naess.
Laguna clung to a 1-0 lead through 3 1/2 innings, until Paxton Burzell hammered a homerun to right center field with two aboard to give CBA a 4-0 lead. It was Burzell’s first home run at Riddle Field.
The score stayed that way until Adam Kerfoot came up with two on in the 6th and belted an inside the park three-run home run to make it 7-0.
CBA played errorless baseball from start to finish, led by catcher Aidan McDennon’s flawless defense behind the plate. Naess, Jeremy Hayes, Cooper Noriega, Burzell, Kerfoot and McDennon had two hits each, and Will Compton added a single.
CBA reached the finals by beating Northwood Yankees 7-2, Irvine Ranch Angels 6-0, and Aliso Viejo Tigers 9-8. The finished the season with an overall record of 20 wins, 3 losses and 2 ties.
Robert Campbell contributed to this article.